Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...

* The ability to return to choir rehearsal last night after having to be out for a couple of months.  It's one of my favorite times of the week and I hate it when I have to miss!  What a blessing to be back.  

* The opportunity to homeschool our children.  I love being able to watch "Real Learning" taking place every day. 

* My wonderfully sweet and hard-working husband!

* Books. :)

* The blessing of friends!

And I'm thankful for Iris, who hosts Thankful Thursday each week! 


Book Bits...

I've mentioned before that my non-fiction reading is decidedly "non-linear".  As I'm reading through my stack, I'm coming up with quotes and notes I want to share.  I'm also not "linear" enough in my blogging to do that in any real order, so instead, I'll be posting random "Book Bits" as I come across snippets worth sharing. 

The exception may be in the case of the book Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home."  I'm pondering the possibility of an actual series on this excellent book.  (See link in my sidebar for details.)  Watch for more on that soon...

Until then, here's a quick quote:

"Again and again we see the truth that each child is created to reflect God's image in a unique way.  A child's personality and personhood is God-given.  We can't and shouldn't try to make a child into 'our own image' or into what we think he should be, or what some curriculum designer thinks he should be.  It is the role of the parent and educator to help the child become more like the 'ideal image' God has in mind for him.  To bring about this ideal in our children involves three forces: the supernatural aid  of grace; the human educational process; and the student's dedication to the process." 
(Elizabeth Foss, Real Learning

"...Uncertain Days..."

I mentioned in my Daybook post that one of my favorite things is "Singing a hymn I've sung all my life and suddenly being hit in a whole new way by old familiar words."  It happened again Sunday morning.   Sitting in the pew singing "Because He Lives", I was reminded as always of sitting in  church with first one and then another tiny baby snuggled on my shoulder as we sang "How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives..." and basking in the truth of His blessing. 

I thought back to the first time we sang that after Ammah Grace was home from NICU and able to go to church...and not being able to sing because of the tears. :)

But Sunday morning, it wasn't the first part of that verse, but the last that jumped out at me as we sang...

"But greater still the calm assurance, 
This child can face uncertain days because He lives."

Our children have faced some very uncertain days already.  Ammah Grace's weeks in NICU and the days that followed as we wondered what kind of damage had been done to her brain were the most obvious and public days of uncertainty.  But there have been other much less visible, but no less frightening, uncertainties faced.  There are major uncertainties looming even now.  And, of course, there are all manner of future, as-of-yet-unseen uncertainties.  

We have already seen the truth of those words in so many ways.  We have seen God work massive miracles in the life of a tiny little girl.  We have experienced God carrying us through deep grief in the loss of my dad, our children's much-loved "Papaw".  We have walked a road we would never have taken on our own when God in His perfect plan chose to show us His power not by protecting us "from" the storms of life, but by sustaining us "in" them.  

What a tremendous blessing to realize that our children (and we!) *can* face the "known" uncertainties that loom as well as the "unknown" uncertainties of the future "just because He lives".  And how I often need the reminder to "fret not", as my grandmother used to say, but to *rest* in the calm assurance He has already provided.  


Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...February 23, 2009

Outside my window... Birds twittering as the sun comes up.

I am thinking... about pain, and God's purposes in it.

From the learning 
rooms... Trying to come up with our next Mega Memory passage.   Hopefully I'll get our MMM final update posted tomorrow...a few weeks late!  

I am thankful for... my sweet husband, who not only fixed the back porch Saturday
 morning and cooked the best dinner ever Saturday night, but who also helped me 
clean up a huge mess last night when I was tired, cranky, and in pain.  I appreciate the things he *plans* (like fixing the porch and grilling out Saturday) and the times that he comes to the rescue unexpectedly (like helping clean almost 4 lbs. of salsa off the kitchen floor last night. :))  

A mostly-uneventful week last week.

A  laid-back weekend with no outside commitments...lots of family time.

From the kitchen... 
I'm hoping that the fact that most of our main meal plans this week include made-ahead meals from the freezer/fridge and a little grilling on Billy's part :) means that I will have time to do a little bulk baking for snacks and breakfasts.  I have several new recipes I want to try, as well as a couple of old stand-bys.  We'll see how that goes.

I am wearing... still in my pjs...eek.

I am reading... Real Learning, Education in the Heart of the Home, by Elizabeth Foss (linked in sidebar...I can't get the link to work here).  Excellent, excellent book.  I had been reading rave reviews of it for ages, but for some reason had no interest in reading it.  I came across something about it a few weeks ago and my interest was finally piqued.   I started it last week and have to say that so far, it is one of the best "homeschooling" books I've read, despite there  being things I don't agree with due to theological differences (Mrs. Foss writes from a definitely Catholic perspective).  More to come on this book soon, I hope.  

And...still working through my stack from last week. :-)

I am hoping...for another calm, uneventful week...and hopefully a very productive one!

That the pain flare that hit suddenly and with full force last night after a few much better weeks will  make its exit quickly.  No time for "down time" this week! 
I am creating... Focusing on order in our home this week (again), and continuing to work through material on creativity in children.  Hoping to post some of what we are doing there later in the week. 

I am hearing... the whirr of the electric heater behind me, Monday morning quiet.

Around the house... "The Great Clothes Sort" this week, preparatory for the upcoming Growing Kids' Sale (and a cleaner, better organized house!)

One of my favorite things... Singing a hymn I've sung all my life and suddenly being hit in a whole new way by old familiar words.  It  happened again yesterday...look for a hymn post soon. :)

A few plans for the rest of the week... Getting ready for the Growing Kids Sale, a haircut for Peter, church and co-op; otherwise, lots of schooling, cleaning,
 sorting/purging, and reading. (I hope!)

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

I had to share three...my three girls after their haircuts this week. :)


Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today... February 16, 2009

Outside my window... Lots of sunshine...for which I am *so* very thankful!

I am thinking... about my dear friend "Miss Mary" McAlister.   I can't believe she's been gone two years today.  She's been on my mind often in the past few weeks, especially...as I've planned my bookmaking class for co-op, put together Gracie's birthday party, and read about Growing Creative Kids.  Those who knew her will no doubt understand why those things would remind me of her. :)  She (and Mr. James) inspired me in so many ways and taught me much.   I'm so excited that Mr. James has a new blog on which he is organizing his articles, songs, and audio files.   *Wonderful* reading there.

From the learning rooms... Excited about incorporating some of  Teaching With God's Heart for the World  into our school plans.  

I am thankful for... a *normal*, even boring, Monday.  :-)

From the kitchen... planning to make a dutch oven cherry cobbler this afternoon...yum!

I am wearing... A heavy fleece pullover, jeans, and fuzzy purple slippers :)

I am reading... Continuing my Sunday afternoon reading list, and reading through a *free* missions curriculum I recently ran across. 

I am hoping... Billy doesn't have to work late this afternoon. 
I am creating... I'm really enjoying the reading I'm doing right now on the subject of Creativity.  I'm creating some time in our school schedule for some of the exercises/activities in Growing Creative Kids, by Wesley Sharpe.

I am hearing... the sounds of busy children. :)

Around the house... I *really* need to re-organize the lower kitchen cabinets this week. I did the upper ones quite a while back, but never got to the lower ones, and they need a serious overhaul!  I'm also hoping to finally get new curtains made for the front door...I've been planning to do that for weeks and keep getting sidetracked. :-)

One of my favorite things... Hearing from old friends!  It's always good to catch up a bit. 

A few plans for the rest of the week... school, church, co-op...hopefully nothing out of the ordinary.  

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...  

A preview of Gracie's birthday party pictures, which I hope to post later today.  

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook for hosting the Daybook each week! 


Afternoon Reading...

Quiet Sunday afternoons are a treasure...especially after a busier-than-usual week bookended by a Monday morning trip to the ER and a Saturday afternoon birthday party! (Photos coming soon. :-))  The kids even seemed to be craving "down time", and occupied themselves quietly all afternoon.  

I spent the afternoon in my favorite chair, at my desk...reading, perusing a few new blogs, and doing a bit of planning for the upcoming week.  As I've mentioned before, my non-fiction reading is done in a decidedly "non-linear" fashion...more "by the stack".   Here's a look at this afternoon's stack...

Keeping House,  Margaret Kim Peterson
The Consolations of Imperfection,  Donald McCollough
Growing Creative Kids, Wesley Sharpe
E.M. Bounds on Prayer, E.M. Bounds
The Creative Call, Janice Elsheimer

Much good reading...I hope to share some notes soon!

I also spent some time browsing some new (to me) blogs...

Home at Last (Guess I should add that this one is not a blog.  It is a Flickr photo set by the author of "Walk Slowly, Live Wildly").   I love what they have done with this little house!!  Cozy, cheerful, and very inspiring.

Even better than a nap!  What's your favorite way to spend Sunday afternoon?


Daybook Tuesday :)

We rarely "go" on Mondays.  I try to keep Monday free to get back into our routine after the weekend and get a good start on school and chores for the week.  We all (including Mom) seem to need that *adjustment* day.  Months ago, however, we had signed up to attend the Fort Smith Symphony's Earquake program with our homeschool group...which happened to be on Monday afternoon.  Not to worry...I had actually looked ahead to the schedule for the week and made various adjustments to account for a Monday afternoon outing.  We had planned to get to bed a bit earlier Sunday night, get up a bit earlier Monday morning, and finish chores, school, and lunch in record time, then scoot out the door to Earquake and then a few quick errands.


First, we didn't get to bed early Sunday night.    More on that later.  Second, in all the confusion Sunday night, apparently I set the alarm wrong for Monday morning.  Somehow it ended up set for 5:45 a.m. all right...but for MAY 9, rather than FEBRUARY 9.  Not particularly helpful.  So I woke poor Billy up an hour late and started out the day in a rush.  Third, Bayley's arm...part of Sunday night's problem...was worse Monday morning, and one of the doctors Billy works with wanted to take a look at it...BEFORE Earquake.  So...instead of having school Monday morning, we went to the emergency room. :)   What had started out as a plan to be gone for a couple of hours morphed into an ALL DAY outing.  

So...needless to say, Daybook Monday didn't happen.  Trying now for Daybook Tuesday instead. :)

For Today...February 10, 2009

Outside my window... Dark.

I am thinking... It's one of those days when my mind is racing in a million directions, with "to dos" swarming, thoughts pondering, creative projects brewing, blog posts percolating. :)

From the learning rooms... Hoping for a nice, quiet, productive day of school at home today.  Our last few "school days" have been the type that make me laugh when someone says, "But what about socialization??"  We have been so busy with co-op classes, field trips, and just plain social activities that we have had a hard time getting schoolwork done!

Btw...Earquake yesterday was great!  We really enjoyed the program.  It was also a great reminder of how thankful I am for the opportunity to homeschool, as we experienced some of the "down side" of age-segregated socialization.  ;-)

I am thankful for... safe and healthy children.  After a week of reflecting all over again on the miracles God gave us 5 years ago with Ammah Grace, she gave us a real scare Sunday night.  She choked at supper and stopped breathing briefly (although it seemed like forever); it was the first time in 4 years and 46 weeks that I had seen her blue from lack of oxygen and it brought back all kinds of scary memories.

And...Sunday night Bayley came home from a birthday party a bit battered from a "wreck" with a boy with whom she had been racing.  By the  time she got home, she was having trouble moving her arm.  We were pretty sure it wasn't broken, but when it was worse on Monday morning, we decided we needed to have it checked out.  One of the  doctors Billy works with offered to look at it; he determined that sure enough, it wasn't broken, but it did need to be wrapped for a while to help with the swelling and discomfort.  

I'm so thankful that neither incident was more serious, and for four safe, healthy children.  I'm thankful for Billy's job at St. Ed's, as frustrating as it can be sometimes :), and for his co-workers/doctors who are always so helpful.  I'm thankful that we got to have lunch with Billy yesterday...a bright spot in an otherwise crazy day!

From the kitchen... I have been SO off our menus this past week.  I'm hoping to finally cook the "Big Breakfast" for dinner tonight that I've been planning to cook since last  Thursday. :)  Also hoping to get a pot of chili made "ahead" for tomorrow.  

I am wearing... Razorback basketball sweats. :-D

I am reading... a whole stack of books from my 999 list!  My non-fiction reading always tends to be done in "stacks", rather than in a more linear "one book at a time" fashion.  :)   The current "stack" includes:

The Consolations of Imperfection (McCollough)
Life Organizer (Louden) 
The Creative Call (Elsheimer)
Growing Creative Kids (Sharpe) 
Keeping Our Children's Hearts  (Maxwell) 
E.M Bounds on Prayer  (Bounds)

I am hoping... that our *excitement* for the week is *over*, and that the predicted storms for tonight don't materialize.

I am creating... Birthday party plans!  Ammah Grace is having her first "friend" birthday party Saturday.  We have invited three of her friends to a "princess tea
 party".  I'm not sure who is more excited....Gracie, or her siblings, who have been my "planning assistants". :-D  Lots of fun already, and the party isn't even here yet!

I am hearing... Billy getting ready for work; otherwise a quiet house. 

Around the house... We've been gone so much lately that we haven't had time for "thorough" chores...we are planning to remedy that starting in about an hour!

One of my favorite things... New (to me) books.  (They are even better if they are used, especially if I got a really great deal!)   

A few plans for the rest of the week...  Major progress in school and on the house, Children's Choir singing in church Wednesday night, co-op on Thursday, preparations for Valentine's Day and  Gracie's party on Saturday.  

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

The icicle bouquet my sweet son brought me during our recent ice storm.  I love his unique blend of thoughtfulness and creativity!

For more Daybook entries, visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook.


5 Years Ago...

Still much to post on all kinds of topics...hopefully after co-op this afternoon I'll have a little more time over the next few days to catch up...but I wanted to get in a few quick "reminiscing" thoughts this morning.

Whenever I was asked for Ammah Grace's birthdate, my immediate response almost always used to be "February 4".  I'm getting better...now I usually just *think* February 4 before mentally correcting myself and then replying, "February 7."  February 4 is the date seared in my memory, and from there the dates all just kind of ran together until March 20, when we finally got to bring her home.

It usually starts on February 3...remembering the conversation I had with my mom that day.  She and my dad were headed to Tulsa for him to see a specialist about some health issues.   A winter storm was forecast, and Mother had expressed concern about leaving, "What if we get snowed in in Tulsa and can't get back and something happens and you need us?"   It had been a very uncomfortable pregnancy, and I wasn't feeling the greatest.  "You'll only be gone two days, even if you do get snowed in Wednesday...it will all melt by Thursday, and what could possibly happen that we would need you before then?  We'll be fine."   The expression "famous last words" seems made for that conversation!

Nothing incredibly exciting on memory lane until late Wednesday night.  Mother and Daddy had gone to Tulsa, and sure enough, the weather had gotten bad there and they ended up spending the night.  Billy and I and the kids stayed home from church because I wasn't feeling well.  We were beginning to get a very light dusting of snow.   At 8:00, Billy started prayer time in the living room preparatory to getting the kids to bed...I was on the sofa and not planning to move anytime soon. :-)   Just as he began to pray, I felt an odd sensation; although my water had never broken naturally in my three previous pregnancies, I was suspicious that that was what had just happened.  

An hour later, we were at the hospital, where Dr. Muylaert confirmed that yes, my water had broken, and I was trying to go into labor...ten weeks early.   They started meds to try to stop labor, and steroids to help Baby's lungs mature more quickly in case they couldn't stall delivery for the four weeks they hoped for.    He calmly informed us that I needed to be transferred...immediately...to UAMS in Little Rock.  "It is much safer to transport *you* before the baby is born than to transport baby after birth."   He then began to explain the various dangers the baby faced.   The whole thing seemed so unreal...like a nightmare from which I couldn't wake up. 

A few hours later, I was in an ambulance on the way to Little Rock...in a snowstorm.   If the weather had been better, I would have been in a helicopter instead of an ambulance.   It was a crazy ride...if you've never been on an ambulance on the interstate, ignoring the speed limit completely, on ice...well, count your blessings. :)  Actually, I was so worried about going into labor that I forgot to worry about the travel...most of the time, anyway.   It's amazing the way God blesses during the scariest of times...Bro. Phil was praying with us when the ambulance crew arrived, and as we walked (well, everyone else walked, I rode flat on my back :)) down to the ambulance bay, one of the guys said, "Well, if it helps at all, know that you're being taken care of by fellow Christians, and we're praying for you."  Did it help?  Wow...what a blessing.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.  

And I still get teary thinking about watching poor Billy standing in the snow as they put me in the back of the ambulance.  Hard as it was, I had the easy part...he had to stay home and go to work, take care of the kids and the house, all the while worrying about what was going on 2 1/2 hours away with his wife and unborn daughter.  I am so thankful for the help and support, from that moment through the next 7 weeks and then some, of our wonderful family, friends, and church family.  We would never have made it through those days without people who were the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to us in so many ways.  

I'm planning to do a bit more "reminiscing" over the next few days...lots of memories and miracles.  But I'll end this post with the Scripture that I was clinging to 5 years ago this moment.

Our friends Kathy and Justin were some of the greatest blessings God gave during this time...they had been through very similar circumstances (and in fact, I ended up in Kathy's old room at UAMS for a while. :))  A picture of their Joshua...one of UAMS's most amazing miracle babies...was on the bulletin board in the hallway I walked to the NICU to see Ammah Grace after she was born.  It was such an encouragement to walk by that picture and be reminded of God's awesome power and goodness. 

While I was still in the ER in Fort Smith, waiting for the ambulance crew to arrive that Wednesday night, Kathy read me this Scripture over the phone.  It was one God had given them during the long months before Joshua was born, when they were being told not to expect him to live.  I clung to it during the days of waiting before she was born, and the weeks and months of wondering after.   I knew that no matter what the outcome, God was going to give us a new song, and show us many wonders.  

Psam 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the LORD; 

       He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
       out of the mud and mire;
       He set my feet on a rock
       and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
       a hymn of praise to our God.
       Many will see and fear
       and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the man
       who makes the LORD his trust,
       who does not look to the proud,
       to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O LORD my God,
       are the wonders you have done.
       The things you planned for us
       no one can recount to you;
       were I to speak and tell of them,
       they would be too many to declare.

He has truly given us wonders too many to declare, and we are so thankful!!


"...from all evil..."

The LORD will protect you from all evil;
         He will keep your soul.
Psalm 121:7

I was sitting at a stoplight a week or so ago when these words seemed to jump off our church marquee at me.  For some strange reason, I ended up sitting through two cycles of the light, so I had plenty of time to ponder.  As I waited impatiently  sat patiently at the intersection :-), my immediate thought was, "But we still experience evil."  Almost instantly, the lessons of the past several years began to flood my mind.  Lessons about His Sovereignty.  Lessons about His goodness.  Lessons about His protection.   I reflected on the change in the past few years in my life from "knowing that the Bible is true because that is what I have been taught", to "KNOWING that every word of the Bible is true with all of my heart, soul, and mind."   

As I drove on, still pondering the verse, I was struck by the fact that when the Bible says "The Lord will protect you from all evil...", it *MEANS* "He will protect you from all evil."  Not *some* evil, not *most* evil, but *ALL* evil.   However, right alongside that thought came this one:  In the past few years, our family has experienced  what can only be seen, by human eyes, as true evil.  Particularly our children.   How to reconcile the devastatingly painful experiences of the past few years with ""The Lord will protect you from all evil"?

A quote I'd heard somewhere along the way...more than once, I'm sure...came to mind.  "Don't evaluate the truth of God's Word based on your circumstances; evaluate your circumstances on the truth of God's Word."  

The only conclusion at that point was this one: the circumstances that I have seen as true evil...were not, to us, evil.  Genesis 50:20 has been a favoite verse for a long time: 

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, 
the saving of many lives."  

Other translations use the word "evil" instead of "harm".  Yes, evil and harm were done against our family, but although Satan *intended* it for evil, *God* intended it for good.   It started out as great evil, but filtered through God's sovereignty and goodness, it came to us as good...whether it *looked* like good or not.

In the intervening days, I've meditated on Psalm 121:7 and these thoughts frequently.   Then yesterday Bro. Kent's sermon blew me away. Here are a few of my (very rough) notes:

John 19:28-30

Jesus inviting us to "Come see the finished work."

*God gives us a Savior who followed the Father's plan with perfect obedience.
He knew exactly what was going to happen.  He had known this plan all along.  And even knowing the pain and suffering that were to come, He willingly allowed them to crucify Him.

Albert Schweitzer--believed Jesus going to the cross was an accident.   It was no accident...it had been planned since before Creation.    He knew exactly what was going to happen.  He had known this plan all along.  And even knowing the pain and suffering that were to come, He willingly allowed them to crucify Him.

*God gives us a Savior who is in control.
Never for one minute did He lose control; NOTHING happened that was not perfectly according to His  plan.   

He was fully cognizant and aware the entire time.  He was sovereign and in total control, even  on the cross.  

If He was totally sovereign and in control on the cross, how much more can we trust Him to  be sovereign and in complete control now, in the circumstances of our lives?

*God gives us a Savior who is victorious.
"It is finished!" was a victory cry.  He "gave up" His spirit...He *chose* when He was going to die.  He had completed the Work perfectly.

I love the way God continues to lead me through these lessons in the School of Sovereignty.  What a blessing to be reminded again that no matter *what* happens, no matter what man does to us, no matter how Satan attacks, God is in complete control.  And not only is He in complete control, but truly "no evil" can come to us.   What a blessing to rest in the fact that no matter how evil our circumstances appear, when filtered through His sovereignty and love, they can only be good.  And how convicting to realize that that sovereignty demands surrender on our parts...only when we are surrendered completely can we experience the true blessing of His sovereignty and control.